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Works Thomas Girtin after John Robert Cozens

Rome: The Colosseum, with a Rider on a Track

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0551: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: The Colosseum, with a Rider on a Track, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 16 × 24.5 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 ⅝ in. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978 (2013.3).

Photo courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978 (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Broken Side of the Amphitheatre at Rome, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 16.2 × 25.4 cm, 6 ⅜ × 10 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4421).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: The Colosseum, with a Rider on a Track
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
16 × 24.5 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Ancient Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2012


Thos. Agnew & Sons; private collection, the Netherlands; Bonhams, 25 January 2012, lot 2, unsold; Bonhams, 11 July 2012, lot 4 as by Thomas Girtin, £4,750; bought by the Pierpont Morgan Library, 2013

About this Work

This partial view of the Colosseum, looking north from the Caelian Hill, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to make ‘finished drawings’ from the ‘Copies’ of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings of Cozens’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ and, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) reported, Turner received ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1 In this case, however, it seems that Girtin was responsible for both the pencil drawing and the colouring, and the watercolour may therefore have been one of the ‘views in Italy … Framed and Glazed’ that were sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 as by Girtin, rather than, as was much more commonly the case, as by Turner alone (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lots 156, 160 and 163).

Monro’s sale contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple sketch inscribed by Cozens ‘Broken side of ye amphitheatre at Rome’, was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827). As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The tracing on which this watercolour is based is inscribed ‘KK 28’, and, although it is not known what this stands for, the forty drawings marked in this way all seem to have been made by Cozens during his stay in and around Rome from November 1776 through to March 1779. None of the compositions in this group of drawings were realised as watercolours by Cozens, and this perhaps encouraged Monro to commission a finished work for his collection.

The Cozens tracing and the finished watercolour are the same size and it is possible that Girtin simply traced his outlines from Cozens’ sketch. This is certainly the conclusion I take from overlaying images of the two works, which reveals a striking congruence between the forms of both the architecture and the vegetation. Girtin’s only addition is the rider on the track, and in all other respects he follows Cozens’ idiosyncratic view of the Colosseum very closely. As with another Monro School watercolour of the monument’s more ruined southern flank taken from a slightly different angle, the ruins inhabit a predominantly rural setting, albeit with the addition, to the left, of what appears to be the dome of St Peter’s and Trajan’s column, neither of which are actually visible from this viewpoint.

Image Overlay

by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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